AL SP to Avoid

It’s about time when you realize you need to make up some wins and strikeouts and start streaming starters, or pick up anyone with a pulse in an Only league. Well, if you have decided on this strategy for your team, then please, avoid these AL starters.

Samuel Deduno

He has the dubious honor of posting the worst SIERA in the AL over the last 30 days, yet has magically kept runs off the board, recording a 3.12 ERA. Amazingly, he has walked two more batters than he has struck out, but a .250 BABIP and a great job stranding base runners has allowed him to maintain an overall ERA of 3.38. Of course, he does have one redeeming quality, and that is a ground ball rate in the mid-50% range. His SwStk% is weak, his F-Strike% below the league average and his fastball velocity is nothing to write home about averaging just 90.6 miles per hour. His minor league track record doesn’t provide much hope as he has struggled with his control his entire career, and his strikeout rates have really bounced around. If you were tempted in any way whatsoever to pick Deduno up based on the shiny ERA, please stop and save yourself from the eventual destruction he will do to your ratios.

Matt Harrison

Seems like he is finally coming back down to Earth, as his ERA over the last 30 days was at 5.00. Unfortunately for owners, his ERA still has a ways to rise, as his SIERA still sits over a run above his ERA. It’s unlikely he continues to strand runners at the rate he has so far, which is easily a career high. In addition, it is hard to believe he could sustain a below league average HR/FB ratio given his home ball park. Granted, he did allow an even lower rate last season, but in a small sample size, it would be unwise to declare that he has a special skill for suppressing the home run ball. Since his strikeout rate stinks, there’s really no floor for his fantasy value, so it’s a roll of the dice every outing with the hope that all those balls in play find gloves and stay in the yard.

Jason Vargas

Yes, he is playable at home. He has posted a 2.63 ERA at SAFECO and that is actually supported by pretty decent skills. He has posted a near league average strikeout rate, while flashing his always excellent control, both of which combine for an xFIP of 3.62. That even has a bit of value in mixed leagues. However, the road is another story. He has posted a 4.25 ERA in away games and all of his skill metrics (K%, BB%, GB%) are worse. His xFIP in away games is an awful 4.90, but a .253 BABIP and nearly 80% LOB% has kept his ERA from looking disastrous. So what we are left with is a pitcher who you literally could only start for half his games, and in those games, he isn’t all that special to begin with. His strikeouts are merely okay and his offense won’t do him any favors to boost his win total. So you have a guy who might earn a couple of bucks of value at best in mixed leagues, with negative value in away games. Is that worth holding a roster spot for? Maybe in AL-Only leagues, but I think absolutely not in mixed leagues.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

10 Responses to “AL SP to Avoid”

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  1. Zack Greinke says:

    You forgot me. I stink.

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  2. LCG says:

    I think you missed Vargas last start.

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  3. Trevor says:

    Full disclosure: I play in a QS league, no Wins concern here.

    Not really sure I agree with the Vargas claim here.

    Look at his last 5 away starts, not too shabby, especially when you consider the last 3 were LAA, Bal, and TB. Certainly not a K’s guy but I’ll take that ERA/WHIP and QS’s anyday.

    8/12 @LAA 8.1 7 1 1 5
    8/6 @Bal 8.0 8 3 0 2
    7/21 @TB 6.0 7 0 3 5
    7/16 @KC 6.0 7 3 3 0
    7/7 @Oak 9.0 7 1 1 6

    His full line over the past 30 days

    IP-37.1 HR-1 K-21 QS-5 L-1 ERA-1.69 WHIP-0.96

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  4. Fred says:

    Wow…You don’t like Jason Vargas?…Like Dr Timothy Leary said: “You don’t want Jason Vargas?…Fine, that’ll just leave more for me.”…What does this guy have to do?…This guy has been fantastic all year…He had one bad outing in Phoenix, where he should have been taken out after four innings and 85 pitches, but the game was tied 5-5, so they left him in to give up 5 more runs…Throw out that one start and his ERA is 3.10 for the year and his road ERA is 3.48…If anything, he is unlucky – he got squeezed in Baltimore and had a bad 3-batter sequence in the second inning, otherwise that was another great start…He had a 5-0 lead in KC so he pitched to the score (still won big, just not the usual 8IP, 1ER)…He out-pitched Jered Weaver at LAA(of A, AL)…His next four starts are: H Min, @ CWS, @ Min, H Bos…I can hardly wait…

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  5. Dubba Dubs says:

    Pfew… Glad some are backing up J.Vargas. While reading I was like, this one of the most underrated SPs this year. I am careful of his road/home splits, but still the guy has been solid.

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  6. Paul Sporer says:

    I gotta pile on with Vargas, I think you’re dead-wrong here. Vargas has been amazing on the road since the blowup in Arizona (10 ER, 4.3 IP). In the five road starts since: 1.93 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in 37.3 IP. Not much by way of Ks, but that’s never been his game. If you’re gonna play the 30-day game with Harrison, it should apply on the other end for Vargas: 2.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP w/5 W in 6 starts including 4 on the road.

    Re: Harrison you said – “In addition, it is hard to believe he could sustain a below league average HR/FB ratio given his home ball park. Granted, he did allow an even lower rate last season, but in a small sample size, it would be unwise to declare that he has a special skill for suppressing the home run ball.”

    He has now maintained the low HR/FB rate for 338 IP which is 60% of career total. It’s even longer if you count from May on in 2010, too, since his 5 Apr HR (19% HR/FB) really inflated his rate that year. If 30 days is enough to declare him “coming back down to Earth” then doing something for 60% of his MLB IP is enough to consider it a skill.

    Sidenote: I don’t see where his 30-day ERA is at 5.00. From Jul 15-Aug 14, he’s at 3.63 w/3 great starts, a “meh” one and two bad ones. Even if you wrote this before his great start in NYY, he still didn’t have a 5.00 ERA in the last 30 days.

    Overall, I think you’re still focusing too much on this idea of “luck” and the gambler’s fallacy stuff discussed in your rankings thread. Just because a SIERA is higher or lower than an ERA doesn’t mean the pitcher is **destined** to move toward that mark. That seems to be the bulk of your analysis and it ends up missing a lot from what I’ve read.

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  7. Another AL SP I would recommend avoiding is Chris Tillman.

    He got recalled and immediately had a brilliant performance @SEA where he was averaging 95MPH on his fastball.

    Since then, however, his average fastball velocity has dropped in each start, from 95MPH against Seattle the first time down to 91MPH against Seattle six starts later. Actually, I see he improved slightly in his start @KC, which is nice at least. For some reason last night’s BOS start is not listed in Pitch F/X yet.

    But projecting his starts the ROS, he gets @TEX, CHW, @NYY, NYY, TB, @SEA, @BOS, BOS. Yikes! (except for @SEA again)

    The combination of the AL East September schedule and his decreased velocity scares me.

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  8. wily mo says:

    i’m kind of fascinated by deduno. he’s a weird little beast. here’s an article about him:

    apparently his control issues aren’t normal control issues: he actually has pretty good command of his slider and curve, and they’re solid pitches, but his fastball has a strange quality of breaking in random directions from pitch to pitch that even deduno can’t predict or control. this obviously cranks up his walk rate but is also apparently difficult for hitters (and his catcher) to deal with. the twins catchers are saying that it’s sort of like catching a knuckleballer and they’ve started just setting up in the middle of the plate and letting it do whatever it’s going to do.

    i’m not claiming to know whether his recent success is sustainable or not. but knuckleballers are one of the few generally accepted exceptions to BABIP normality principles, and people keep comparing him to a knuckleballer. i think he’s such a strange case it’s worth taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach instead of just pointing to his terrible FIP or whatever other defense-independent stat and calling it a day. there might be other guys available who are better gambles, but i don’t think deduno’s a completely worthless one.

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